As part of our CEO Secrets series, which invites entrepreneurs to share their advice, we are focusing on businesses that have launched during lockdown. Each week we will look at a different type of person. This week we speak to female entrepreneurs aged over 50.
“If you feel it, just do it,” is the advice of Feyi Raimi-Abraham.
“Don’t stop and wait to have all the ducks in a row for your business idea, because it will never happen.”
The south Londoner has started her first commercial venture at the age of 52.
It is called The Black Dementia Company and it stems from personal experience.
We asked eight of the entrepreneurs featured on our 100 Powerful Women list: If you could go back and change one business decision you made, what would it be?
“The most valuable use of my time was when I invested in recruiting and retaining great people. If I could go back, I’d literally double down: double the time I spent making sure we have and keep the incredible people that help our business be successful and grow.”
— Katrina Lake; Founder and CEO, Stitch Fix, the $2 billion personal styling service
Small businesses are a major part of the American economy, and women appear to run them better. Small businesses fuel job growth, generate taxes and make up a large percentage of American businesses overall. While immigrants and other groups have carved out a large portion of this segment of the economy, a newly released survey suggests an even bigger demographic contributes to the small business landscape: women.
The ninth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report estimates that approximately 42% of all American businesses are owned by women. That block of businesses generates $1.9 trillion and employs 9.4 million workers. According to the study, commissioned earlier this year by American Express, women with “diverse ethnic and geographic backgrounds started an average of 1,817 new businesses per day.”
The population of Memphis, Tennessee is 63% black. Over half of the local businesses are black-owned; if you’re a black entrepreneur, it regularly tops the list of best places to start a businesses. But a 2012 study found that black-owned businesses take in less than 1% of all the money spent in the city. Women-owned businesses–particularly those owned by women of color–also struggle.
Part of the issue, says Joann Massey, a businesses consultant who now heads up the Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance, is how Memphis spends its money. Cities contract with vendors for everything from paper and pencils to construction work and technology services. In Memphis, as in most cities, those vendors are typically run by white men.
The other day, I read an article that blew me away. Writing in Forbes, entrepreneur Deborah Sweeney reminds us that until 1988, women entrepreneurs could not get business loans without a male relative as a cosigner. It didn’t matter if the male relative was even involved in the business, or if he was under 18; he was essential to experienced businesswomen getting the loans they needed to grow their companies.
“As a 43-year-old female CEO, it is difficult for me to get over that in my lifetime women business owners had to rely on men to obtain a business loan,” Sweeney writes.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. It brings endless challenges and demands a whole host of diverse strengths and skills. Although not all that long ago viewed as “the weaker sex,” women are kicking some serious butt in the business world.
As a female entrepreneur, I’ve always believed that women have what it takes to succeed. And according to the 2012 U.S. Census data, I’m not wrong. The 2012 survey showed 9.9 million female-owned businesses, a not-too-shabby 2.1 million firm increase (almost 27 percent) over the 7.8 million in the 2007 U.S. Census.
That’s steady progress toward reaching—and exceeding—the 14.9 percent of male-owned businesses reported in 2012 (which only increased by 1 million businesses in the five years after the 2007 survey numbers came out).
According to a report conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, supporting women-led businesses could have a huge positive impact on the economic growth of the U.S. Over the last few decades, more women have started to enter the workforce, and they began to outshine males in degrees. This led to women helping the U.S. economy by creating huge economic gains.
However, many have said that the annual economic growth of 3 percent has slowed down with the Kaufmann report suggesting that this could hit a low of 2 percent in the next few years. What’s the answer to boosting this growth again? Women.
In March, the Center for an Urban Future released “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs”–a comprehensive report that explores the impact women-led companies have had on economies across the United States, while also outlining ways we can empower and inspire the future growth of women-led businesses. The report was made possible with support from Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, a five-year, $150 million effort to help more American workers and entrepreneurs get the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in the 21st century. In previous Inc.com posts, I’ve shared insights from the report, specifically, how New York City’s economy stands to benefit from the growing number of women-owned businesses.
When I learned Capital One was bringing this conversation to The Dallas Entrepreneur Center in early May, I jumped at the opportunity–eager to learn more about the impact women business owners are having in the local Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) market. Why is a conversation about women entrepreneurship important in DFW? According to the report, women entrepreneurs and business owners in North Texas are leading the way:
When it comes to small business in the United States, more women are running the show.
On Wednesday, the National Women’s Business Council released an analysis of preliminary Census data which showed there were nearly 10 million women-owned small businesses in the U.S. in 2012, a 27.5% increase from 2007. (The Census defines a woman-owned business as one where a woman owns 51% or more of the business equity or stock).
While men still own more businesses than women, women-owned businesses grew at a rate of four times that of male-owned businesses. In 2012, men owned nearly 15 million businesses.
Overall, women-owned businesses earned a total of $1.6 trillion between 2007 and 2012 and the vast majority (89.4%) were run by sole proprietors, meaning the only employee was the owner.
The report, which pulled data from the Census’s Survey of Small Business Owners, also highlighted major increases in small business ownership among women of color, particularly black and Hispanic women.
American Underground has a lofty goal — to become the most diverse startup incubator by the end of 2016.
Why the rush?
“Great business ideas aren’t getting the opportunity to come to market because the tech community of startups and investors lacks diversity,” said Adam Klein, chief strategist with the Durham, N.C.-based accelerator.
So by the end of next year, American Underground wants women and minority-led firms to make up more than 50% of its startups. (Currently, it’s 36% of the 225 startups.)
It’s not just lip service. Klein pointed to a variety of initiatives started in 2013 to aggressively recruit more female entrepreneurs to its three campuses.
There’s a nursing room at American Underground’s main location in downtown Durham. Networking, mentoring and cocktail hour events are scheduled before 6 p.m.